Kimberly started Well Christian Woman in order to share what true wellness really means, but she’s no longer here to share her story. It feels strange as a guy sharing here, but as her husband, I’ll do my best to share her story by sharing ours.
When I was younger, I really didn’t have a grasp on what “true wellness” meant. I still don’t, not fully, but I believe I am getting closer than I used to be. Kimberly would have told you the exact same thing about herself.
We had been married 18 years and we had a three, four, and a six year-old when Kimberly was diagnosed with very aggressive metastatic cancer. After 19 months of far too much pain, inability to do most of the things she wanted to do with me and the kids, and dozens of hospital visits, surgeries and procedures, she went to be with Jesus.
Several months before her diagnosis, Kimberly and I had a discussion about the worst things that we could imagine happening to us. Not crazy, unlikely scenarios, but things that had a real statistical chance of happening to us. Losing Kimberly was at the top of my list. Leaving her children without a mother was at the top of hers. It sounds like a morbid discussion, I know, but I think it helped us process our situation later when those things were actually happening.
At the time we were examining our relationship with God, discussing whether or not we truly followed Him wholeheartedly. Even then, several months before her diagnosis, Kimberly had started praying that if it ever happen to her, she and her faith would be strong enough to handle a terminal illness.
Her original prognosis was bleak. She was given a few months at best. We were heartbroken. Devastated. Our life and our plans and our future together were all turned upside down. It seemed our world was ending, but through all that craziness, as weird as it seems to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, we could feel the presence of Jesus there with us.
We had always lived as if we had control of our lives. We fancied ourselves self-sufficient and strong. We depended on our own gifts and abilities and on each other. We were fooling ourselves. We had no control. We were depending on transient things rather than on the eternal God who created and loves us.
I believe it was God who prompted Kimberly to start praying that prayer before she even knew she was ill. I’m grateful that He answered it for both of us. He continues to do so for me now, almost a year after Kimberly’s death.
There was, and there still is much grief. There were, and still are many tears. There was also peace and strength and hope and joy during those last 19 months of Kimberly’s life that surpassed, in many ways, the peace and hope and previous joys in our marriage. Neither of us had ever experienced anything like it, and we both attributed this unequivocally to the presence of Jesus working in and through us.
Almost everyone who interacted with Kimberly throughout her illness would comment on her strength and peace and perspective. She would quickly tell them that it wasn’t her strength or perspective, but His. She wanted the world to know that true wellness isn’t something that comes from physical health or wealth, or even from marriage and family. It comes from a relationship with Jesus.
I am weak. A lot weaker in more ways than most of the people around me would think I am. The only way I have carried on over these months since Kimberly’s death is because Jesus has been here with me, giving me His strength and hope and peace. Enabling me to muddle through tough conversations with the kids. Allowing me to move through each day. Giving me hope for a future where our family will all be together again in a world without pain and fear and loss.
Even as I want and need to be closer to Him, I often find myself pulling away and distancing myself from God… but He has always been faithful, even when I have not been faithful to Him. He gives me strength and courage when I have none of my own. Even when I fail Him, and I certainly do, He doesn’t give up on me.
Kimberly and I often talked about how we couldn’t imagine trying to handle her illness without the hope we have in Jesus. I still have the same question today as I live on without her. I couldn’t do it without Him. For anyone who shared Kimberly’s last months and days in this world, it was obvious that she felt the same.
Jesus said we would have trouble in this world, but we didn’t realize how much He would come alongside us to provide the strength we need to walk through the valley. How much hope and peace He offers amidst fear and disappointment and grief. Hope and peace that doesn’t make any sense unless it comes from something far beyond ourselves.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
True wellness for me, as it was for Kimberly, is understanding that we need Jesus. Understanding that I need to depend on Him rather than trying to be self-sufficient and strong enough on my own. That I am not the best judge of what I need in this life, but my Creator is. That wanting control doesn’t mean I can attain it, or know best what I should do with it even if I had it. True wellness for me is knowing that no matter what happens, He is in control and I can have hope and peace in Him.
Something Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthians had spoken to Kimberly very specifically as her body was overrun by disease:
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 (ESV)
Kimberly didn’t lose heart. She knew where to find renewal day by day. I continue to need that same daily renewal, and He has been faithful.
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